A consortium led by Atlantis Aviation is offering South Africa maritime surveillance aircraft on a short to medium term basis, and will display a Dornier 328 aircraft in support of this at the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition next month.
The consortium includes South Africa’s Avex Air, Aero Data (Germany) and Aero Rescue (which provides search and rescue services for Australia).
“The consortium offers a proposal that could be an interim solution to serve the Marine Spatial Planning outlined in Operation Phakisa’s Marine Protection Services and Ocean Governance,” Atlantis said. This interim solution could comprise up to five maritime surveillance aircraft that are leased to the South Africa Air Force (SAAF).
Atlantis Aviation said the first aircraft is immediately available and will be exhibited at AAD 2016 while the remaining four units will become available progressively from end of February 2017 until July 2017 – this includes a midlife upgrade of the mission equipment to achieve compatibility with other South African aviation and marine assets.
“The five aircraft will adequately cover the published coastal marine protection zones and could immediately commence surveillance and prosecution of illegal maritime activities both by day and night. This excludes the remote Prince Edward Island Exclusive Economic Zone.
“The benefit is that these can be operational in a short period without capital budget cost and can be an interim measure until other planned projects such as the SAAF’s Metsi could deliver,” Atlantis said.
The South African Air Force was seeking maritime patrol/surveillance aircraft under Project Metsi and light transport aircraft under Project Kiepie to replace its C-47TPs and C212s respectively (these projects evolved from Project Saucepan) but the 2016/17 defence budget vote made no mention of new aircraft and the SAAF budget is almost unchanged for the next several years.
Atlantis said the aircraft’s capabilities would also serve the South African Maritime Safety Authority, Department of Transport, Department of Environmental Affairs, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Department of Defence and that Treasury may combine these departments to obtain “desperately needed” maritime surveillance aircraft.
The aircraft offered by the consortium is the Dornier 328 TP which is supported locally by Avex, which supports six similar aircraft and is certified as an approved maintenance organisation (AMO) by the South African Civil Aviation Authority on this particular model. Atlantis said that spares already exist within South Africa and Avex also has links on this aircraft back to Europe with access to spares from Sun-Air, the largest Dornier aircraft user in Europe and British Airways operator in Scandinavia.
The aircraft are becoming available as the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and Royal Australian Air Force replace these with jet aircraft including four Bombardier CL 604s, at a cost of $640 million, and eight P-8 Poseidons, at a cost of $8 billion. Aero Rescue has a ten year contract with AMSA for search and rescue services using five Do 328 TPs. These are equipped with a search radar, electro-optical ball, line scanning equipment, life raft and emergency stores dropping capability and other mission equipment. They are being replaced in Australian service by the four Challenger 604s, which began arriving in August this year under contract from Surveillance Australia/Cobham SAR Services.
The Dornier aircraft lease would allow the South African Air Force to become familiar with maritime surveillance missions which they have not been able to conduct since the Shackleton aircraft ceased operation in November 1984 after 27 years of service, Atlantis said. “The tasking achieved by the Maritime C-47 TP is rudimentary and limited to visual observation from an airframe which celebrated its 80 years of SAAF service with 35 Squadron on 5 December 2015.”
SAAF crew could be trained by Aero Rescue and AMSA for maritime surveillance duties and also allow the SAAF to obtain valuable experience in such operations in order to be able to specify the next generation of maritime surveillance aircraft approved by the 2014 Defence Review.
Atlantis pointed out that the ocean economy is one of the government’s focus areas and has been estimated to be able to contribute R170 billion to GDP by 2033, with R17 billion being made available for investment in 2016 to develop this potential. Part of this entails protecting South Africa’s 1.5 million square kilometre exclusive economic zone and 2 800 kilometres of coastline.